The first wave of releases to address Trump’s America includes Hurray For The Riff Raff’s The Navigator. The New Orleans-based outfit’s sixth album is a concept about songwriter Alynda Segarra’s Puerto Rican heritage that explores immigration, identity and cultural theft.
Its passion and infectious Latin influences should make it an exciting live draw yet for some reason it falls slightly flat tonight.
Stripped of the album’s street cries and bomba percussionists, the arrangements often reveal a closer musical kinship to the band’s background in Americana and country. It’s an influence that’s ever present on the release, with ‘Life To Save’ being given a faithful live reading, yet rather than being an anomaly it’s the rule of thumb here.
The country-rock of ‘The Body Electric’ nonetheless reminds the audience that the band’s interest in politics is nothing new. Introduced as ‘a protest song’ it deals with violence against women. ‘Small Town Heroes’, performed solo on electric guitar, is meanwhile an address to a junkie lover (“Just couldn’t watch you stick it in your arm”).
Despite this continuity, there are definite signs of development. Where the band once underpinned their compositions with long-term fiddle player Yosi Perlstein, here there’s the introduction of soft rock on the like of ‘Living In The City’, which has the attitude of a young Chrissie Hynde, while ‘Rican Beach’ has hints of Spanish guitar.
It’s with set closer ‘Pa’lante’ – it translates as ‘to go forward’ – that they come the closest to capturing the album’s spirit. With a fist raised in defiance, Segarra urges the crowd “to be something!” while her four band mates shift from soft rock to Lennon-esque electric piano and back. It’s a moment of passion that’s almost enough to elevate the one-hour set into an empowering triumph.